sorry to cut -- [applause] dr. sonia sanchez off. but i want to thank you again for the panel this evening. there is a book signing that will immediately follow at the penguin booth on 135th street. you can catch up with our pan panelists there, herb boyd, peniel joseph zaheer ali and my sister and your sister, sonia sanchez. thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] exiles."
[applause] >> well, thank you all so much for coming today. um, you know when i had the pleasure to be invited for this and saw the program, of course, i immediately started looking at the program to see who else was speaking at the same time as me. and i discovered that there are no fewer than two pulitzer prize winners, a major hollywood
actress, and so, you know i know my topic is losers, but, you know -- [laughter] however, i take some pleasure, however, in speaking to you between two pulitzer prize winners. so you should, you should certainly stay on for more in this tent. but most of all, thank you to the library of congress and to the organizers of this wonderful festival. i mean, how great is this to walk along here and see all this? [applause] >> thomas brown would always remember the day the american revolution changed his life. it was the summer of 1775 the 25-year-old ice first on his own american lands. he had arrived a year earlier with 74 indentured servants in tow to start a plantation in the georgia back country near augusta. the newcomers must have marveled
on reaching this strange subtropical landscape where giant black oaks stood like 60-foot columns holding up the sky. within nine months brown and his laborers had cut much of the forest into farms. he supervised a burgeoning 5600-acre estate from a fine new great house his tenants surrounding them. horses filled his stables, cattle and hogs got fat off his grass and seed. but another force would transform thomas brown's new world. he saw it coming one august day in the form of 130 armed men walking straight toward his house. now, brown knew before coming to america of the troubles that had been tearing up anglo-american relations for at least a decade. a series of taxes imposed by britain had triggered a heated series of conflicts over the limits of parliamentary authority and the rights of
colonial british subjects. brown confidently reckoned that georgia, a thousand miles away from new england, the center of unrest, had, quote, no connection or concern in such affairs. even in 1774 investing his personal fortune and his future in the american colonies looked like a good bet. but in april 1775 british and american troops exchanged the first shots of the revolution outside boston and no part of the colonies remained unconcerned for long. in savannah and charleston, the nearest major cities to brown's estate patriots formed associations to organize support for the rebellion and approached brown and his neighbors to join. did he have anything to gain from joining this rebellion? not really. the fact that he had recently arrived and, i should add in 1775 10% of the people living here in america had only just arrived from britain. this mattered less to his
calculations than that he intended to spend the rest of his life here. whatever he may have thought of the principles at stake, self-interest alone pointed out brown's choice. he refused patriot overtures and signed on to a loyalist counterassociation instead. the next thing brown knew patriot invitations became demands delivered by gangs like the one at his door. standing on the porch, the sticky heat clinging to him like a second shirt brown tried to put the men off calmly. he had no wish to fight his own neighbors, he said but he, quote, could never enter an engagement to take up arms against the country which gave him being. the conversation quickly turned to confrontation. some of the patriots quote, threatened that they would drag him by force to augusta. brown backed into the house to seize his weapon, determined to defend himself as long as he was able against any violence.
it would be at the peril of the man who attempted it, he screamed brandishing his pistol. a gunfired, rifle butts swung up over his head and then blackness. what came next he would reconstruct later from flashes of recollection in a semiconscious haze. shattered head throbbing body bleeding he rattles over a track. they reach augusta. he is tossed to the ground his arms lashed around the trunk of a tee. he sees his bare legs splayed out in front of him, funny-looking, foreign things, and he sees hot brown pitch poured over them clinging to his skin. under his feet the men pile up kindling and set it alight. the flame sears his flesh. his feet are on fire two of his toes charred into stubs. the attackers seize his broken head by the hair and pull it out in clumps. kniveses take care of the rest making the blood run down over
his ears, his face, his neck. half scalped, skull fractured, lame slashed and badders, brown remarkably survives. later, a doctor comes to the place where he is confined and bandages him up, setting his broken bones on course to heal. a sympathetic guard agrees to let brown get away. he slips out of custody and rides over the border into south carolina to take shelter with a loyalist friend. now, this may not sound like the american revolution that you learned about in school. but today i open with the story of thomas brown, one of the early episodes in my book because i want to throw, i want to ask you to throw out that revolution that you learned about in school, just sort of leave it aside. put it away out of your mind and i want you to follow me instead through a looking glass to see the american revolution from the other side.
this is a side on which sticking to your belief, sticking to your loyal belief loyalty, a quality that we value mattered more than violently throwing them out on what seemed like a whim. where the losers whom history has forgotten actually become the central actors in the story. and where the story of america, the history of america can unfold in the world beyond our shores. so the story i want to tell you today is about the american loyalists who left the united states to find new futures in the british empire. now, when talking about loyalists, the first thing that we need to realize is that a man like thomas brown was far from alone. fully one in three members of the american population at the beginning of the revolution remained loyal to britain. it was the default choice. about a third of colonists
meanwhile, didn't have much of an opinion. so at the beginning of the revolution, patriots were in a minority. theirs was the strange choice the one that is difficult to understand. so we're talking about a large percentage of the american population. and what this meant is that the american revolution was really our first civil war. this was a war that was divided communities, it guided friends -- it divided friends, it dividessed families. most famously it divided bepg minifranklin from his only son, william franklin who remained a loyalist. so this was the conflict that cut right through the center of americans' life, and it was routinely described as a civil war at the time. who were these loyalists? well stereotypes still loom large when thinking about loyalists. we tend to think of them as being white, elite men with
strong ties to britain members typically of the anglican church. we think of them under the label torrey which is a term that meaning "conservative" in british political culture. again, throw these stereotypes out along with your old images of the american revolution. this was not the only profile of loyalists. loyalism ranged right across the social the ethnic the geographic, the religious spectrum of early america. it included shoemakers and carpenters and bakers cosmopolitan city dwellers, farmers on the frontier like thomas brown, and most of all these loyalists were not even torrey in the sense of being conservative. in fact, many of them resisted the idea of paying taxes to britain, and many of them wanted to see reform in the imperial relationship. crucially, not all loyalists
were white. another one of the stereotypes that we need to throw away. loyalists included a number of native american nations who saw better futures for themselves, better prospects for themselves under the governments of the british empire than they did at the hands of the white settlers who for so many decades had been trying to take chair land. so the -- take their land. so the creeks, the mohawks various indian nations ally themselves with britain. early in the revolution the british issued an an amazing promise to the black slaves who lived and farmed across the american south. they said come and join us, and we will give you freedom. and some 20,000 black slaves responded to this call, running to the british earning their freedom, becoming what are called black loyalists. so for them, you know their
patriot owners might talk about learn, but the british version -- liberty, but the british version, freedom was the liberty that they could really believe in. for most of the people who were caught on the front lines of this civil war, this wasn't so much a war about ideals, it was a war about ordeals. ordeals like thomas brown's, ordeals where your windows might be smashed your livestock might be poisoned in this your fields, you might have your property confiscated by the state. you might be jailed or harassed in other ways. and this kind of violence impelled tens of thousands of loyalists during the war to move into british-held strongholds for safety. they move today new york city which was occupied by the british throughout almost all of the war, they moved into charleston, they moved into savannah, they moved into the protection of british forces. but the end of the war and the
evacuation of british troops meant that they had to rethink those choices and revisit them. they felt fearful. they felt uncertain. they had no idea what kind of future was going to await them in this post-conflict united states. were they going to be safe? were they going to be able to have a life? while they were wrestling with these questions, the british held out an alternative to them. the british said, come with us. we'll give you land somewhere else in the british empire and you can start out a new life somewhere else. so imagine yourself then as a loyalist at the end of the american revolution in new york city, the last place to be evacuated by british troops. george washington is marching in at the helm of the continental army. it's a jubilant moment for the patriots they're celebrating with fireworks and banquets and all the rest of it. it's a great moment for patriot america. but there are still thousands of
loyalists who have to figure out what to do. imagine yourself on the docks, the patriots coming down. you don't know what's going the happen when they come in. but in front of you are the british ships, the ships that belong, you know the most powerful navy in the world offering you a free chance at a life somewhere else. what are you going to do? 60,000 loyalists decided to follow the british. and they brought with them 15,000 slaves. so we have 75,000 people leaving these shores at the time of independence to seek out a new future in the british empire. this is something like one in 35 or 40 members of the american population. so an attempt like this several of you would be out the door. please stay for the rest of my talk, but it's proportionately to our population the biggest civilian exodus in american history. what happened to them next? well, this is where the story
really gets juicy and unknown. the answers would unfold across the british empire which is to say at this time more or less across the world. because the british empire is on its way to becoming the leading global power of the 19th century. so you go off into the british empire, you are a subject of the superpower of the 19th century to come. the loyalist refugees confronted britain really with the biggest and the most geographically wide-ranging refugee crisis that britain had ever faced. and britain's response to the refugees really provides a good case study in how to be a good loser. ..
did in and out of the dangers of. they gave them land grants in canada and the bahamas and elsewhere. they gave them the most basic things that these refugees needed. they give them food supplies for a couple of years. they give them blankets. they give them shoes. they give them farm implements, some of the most amazing documents i found in my research these catalogs of items that are crossing the atlantic to go meet the loyalists as they arrive in the unsettled areas of the british empire. you know, inventories of stockings and shoes and belts and hammers. things like gambles and things that i have no idea what they are. can only assume the refugees
appreciated. and so british leaders consistently stood up for the refugees to be put into place even a program of financial compensation to help loyalists get money back for what they have lost america. they consistently upheld the promise of freedom to the black loyalists. over and above repeated american objections, the british stuck to their promise of freedom. where did the refugees go? now, you might think they went back to britain. in fact, fewer than 15 percent actually went to britain. and it wasn't even back to britain because most of them had never been there before. there were americans, and britain was as much a foreign country to them then and is it would be to us now, if not even more so since communication technologies have progressed. and so they found themselves release changes in an alien land. in fact, the majority of loyalists went to other places,
more than half went to canada for the provinces that are none of the scotia, new brunswick and a lesser extent ontario and quebec. another 10,000 a so headed south. they went to the bahamas jamaica, and they took with them be exported slaves, 15,000 slaves with them as well. but loyalists are arranged around this expanding empire. some, for example would be on the first fleet to australia settling present-day city. in fact, loyalists was the first person to propose colonizing austria. the loyalists who went to india. in fact, benedict arnold had two sons to join up in the east india company army and ended up spending the rest of their lives in india. and in the most surprising migration and 1791 about 1200 of the black loyalists the free slaves crossed the atlantic to settle a new part of west africa
and found the city of freetown in sierra leone. so within a few years has the map of the loyalists dads were looked a lot like the map of the british empire as a whole. but was it like to be one of these refugees? let me tell you a little bit about the experience of being a refugee through the stories of the woman who first told me a little bit about that. her name is elizabeth johnson. i encounter her story right at the beginning of my research, and it convinced me reading her recollection and reading about her experiences, it convinced me that there was a story your then needed to be told. elizabeth johnston was just a girl when the american revolution began. she was born in georgia and 1764, and the war had an inverted for world when has
happened to thomas brown a patriot mob came to her father's plantation and effectively chased him off his plantation, leaving elizabeth his mother had died basically an orphan of war. she spent the next several years living in the custody of relatives family friends while her father fought and british forces elsewhere on the continent. and she next saw her father at the age of 15. she is no longer grow, now a young woman. and so it takes a some time to get reacquainted with one another. in particular her father has to do with the fact that now at 15c is you know a teenager and is able to fall in love. she falls in love with one of his brother officers, a sort of reddish captain called william johnston who served in the loyalist regiment as well, who is from a prominent family in savannah. he was now entering the work as a dashing, fashionable in occupied new york he was a
gambler and charmer and flirt. he had been a medical student before the war but he didn't seem to be very much interested in that. anyway over father's initial resistance elizabeth mary's william johnston in 1779. now, they don't have much of a honeymoon because against the backdrop -- there early and married -- their early years of married life unfolds against the backdrop of britain's losing campaigns to route the south. and so elizabeth in sub following william johnston threw one city after another as the british pull out. they evacuate from savannah in july of 1782. she has at this time and newborn son, and she is also -- well, he's not that newborn because she is also seven months pregnant at the time. she follows william to charleston where they have to pack up and go. she stays just long enough to
give birth to a second child. they again move. she goes on her on with these two very small to children heading off again into the unknown, this time to st. augustine in florida. now, they expect to stay in florida. florida at that time remains loyal. it was not part of the revolution. it was still a british territory, and something like 12,000 loyalists ended up going to florida at this time expecting that this was where they could you know, pick up, start up plantations again and the forward. but they arrive months before learning that this place too is going to be evacuated and handed over to spain in the peace treaty that ends the war. so, you know, elizabeth johnson with two tiny children her husband still off during his military service trying to make a go of it in the third city she has lived in in his many years is having to face the prospect of moving yet again and so you
can, perhaps sympathize with her when she says the war never occasion to ask the did -- have the distress which this piece is done to the unfortunate loyalists. now they have to figure out what to do. william has been a medical student. he decides to pick up his career path. good choice. everyone should approve of that. he decides to go to the best medical school in the english-speaking world which at that time is in edinburgh in scotland. so he decides to set of with the family to edinburgh which they do in 1784, and once again elizabeth follows them. he goes first. now she has three small children born in each place she has lived. she sets up the family's first home in peacetime all under the same roof together in a charming hero grows straight college that she is very happy about. but for all that see whites
living together as a family for the first time, having this new life, there are sadnesses. said misses of being a foreigner for one thing. you know, they don't know anyone. very disconnected. the difficulties of being poor these are people who are middle-class to have lost everything, a lot of what they have in the war and have to set up from scratch. then also they suffer other calamitous 18th century was. her fourth child was born in scotland and dies of thrash not long after and she has had a child in every place she has lived. she knelt plan surfers gravestone in scotland soil. and the question of the future remain hauntingly unresolved. the family get some compensation for their losses from the british government, but it iso[[o not enough to live on, and the career opportunities are not all that they would wish for. in so william johnston decides
to move yet again this time to the richest place in the world. you would think it will be a good place to go, and out just read you very briefly about the place that they go, which is to make. its beauty could take your breath away hadn't. from the sparkling surface of the water, your gaze swept sharply up to the blue mountains climbing. over the triple slopes fellow living green blanket textured in the with vegetable forms of the tropics. plantains muscular trees draped in epiphytes carrying stands a bamboo and sinewy palms. when you turn pass the other little the harbor you float over the broken stones of the old capital of port royal. mostly destroyed in the 1692 earthquake. the gleaming sand swept around the shorelines of kingston port royals replacements, the greatest british metropolis in
the caribbean. dolls fly circles around the mast. the sun cut the water into liquid diamonds. no wonder loyalists were captivated by it. such skills, such mountains and such a nurture, everything is so bright and gate. this delightful best cruising toward a spectacular landscape. 18th-century compared the bay of kingston to the bay of naples with the blue mountains standing in for vesuvius and the submersed ruins of port royal shimmering like a pompeii under the sea. others led the grandeur and sublimity and overcome them knocking language from the lips. whatever else loyalists refugees knew of this island they could see it wasn't the 13 colonies and more. now, the place that it was jamaica, was at that time the richest colony in the british empire. in fact, if you want to know why
britain manages to bell spectrum the american revolution as successfully as it does, is partly because it holds on to its most valuable territory which is in the caribbean. so it seems like a great place to have of a flourishing career, but the very things that make jamaica so rich and appealing is incredibly lucrative sugar cultivation and its lush tropical environment that lures many of us there on vacation if we're so lucky. these very things actually make it also quite a dangerous and difficult place to be. for one thing that sugar is cultivated by a huge slave labor force, the ratio of slaves to whites is about to end one. the white minority asserts its power through this incredible sort of rain of terror and violence on the island. there are virtually no white women. elizabeth justin shows up in this place that is very violence which almost nobody for her to relate to to speak to.
and the tropical lushness is an issue as well because it also -- william johnston is a doctor, so this is a useful place for him to be, but very san the diseases of the islands will turn fatally and would on the family as well. so a toddler dies of scarlet fever. a baby, they have a new baby and named the baby jane. this is a common practice in the 18th-century. that baby also dies of smallpox. the eldest son dies of yellow fever. the eldest daughter becomes mentally ill. it is of fatal place for the johnson family, and elizabeth falls into a deep depression. she is as much dissolved -- exhausted in mind and body having nothing no relation, only black servants. it's too much for her to bear. she decides to go again. if you think that you have heard a lot about the different places she is going just imagine what
it's like for her to live through all of this. says she decides to leave this dangerous island behind, and this time they go to nova scotia. the very idea of which horrified sir. william vines this. hey. i booked you up assets in a discussion. what, to be frozen to death? si is horrified. but in nova scotia that last elizabeth johnston after 25 years on the move we will stay put. little did i think that i and all my family would ultimately settle in nova scotia. there she stays. the number one loyalists haven for surviving children in the joining of their and flourishing enjoying a kind of state of success that they could never have had if they remain in the u.s. by the time she sets down her memoirs decades after all of this has happened she lives as
long in one place as she had lived on the move before. so i told you at the outset, this is the american revolution through a looking glass. we need to turn her our assumptions and perspectives around. maybe the last assumption that we have to turn around is the one that says that these people were losers. so in the sense finally finding home in the greatest world power of the 19th century finding stability, finding a new life in the sense within not victors after all. now, i'm very happy to take questions. let you formulate questions. let me say one final thing about the story. i have been working on this but for many years but little did i think this booklet, at a time when revolutions are again sweeping the world in the middle east. i just want to say a quick word
about why i think this story matters now also speaking in the shadow of the capital. now, the revolution, of course remains a touchstone for our ideas about who we are in america. to we are as americans. now more than ever this is in the news. but we also live in a moment, of course, of great partisanship very much in the news as well. and so i think it's worth looking at this story and attending to it to realize that even at our founding we were a people of many ideas deeply felt values and we have great divisions within our society. we have to make one nation out of people who have fought a civil war. so the lesson here would be to hang on to common principle celebrate them, there is just one kind of freedom or one way to pursue happiness. there is a just one way to be american.
and the other point about the international contacts, but this is a good reminder that our history has always been embedded in the history of the wider world. the history of america is part of of world history. the story of the loyalists refugees shows some american people and american ideas have made their mark but also show us how we need to bring things from the wider world back here to america in certain ways. so the strength of our country seems to me his founded him and our wonderful unity, but the beauty of it resides in our diversity. so with that i see there are people with questions. [applause] [applause] >> loyalists who were religious particularly those who professed christianity biblical and/or
other explanations given to justify their taking a stand by remaining loyal to their original national roots. >> so the question, if you didn't hear it, is about religion and the american revolution. anglicanism, you know, there was some correlation between anglicanism and loyal listen. in particular you find clergymen who have sworn an oath of sorts to the church of england which is the established church of which the king is the head. so for these people there is definitely an element to which it is sacrilege as well as political disloyalty to break with -- to break with the royal authority. i can cite scripture but i could direct you to some of the very prominent clergymen who wrote passionately on this theme
providing some biblical support. >> high. i have two questions the second of which almost killed from your file talk. the first one when i first saw you on television i was just curious. you're going into a subject matter which is totally different from most historians. rita influenced by your esteemed parents to a couple will live differently? my second question is, when you do what's the revolutions in the middle east, you was the people there. do you empathize with them? soda say oh, i know what they're going through. >> yes. the first question about how my came to see the american revolution this way is very much yeah, it's hardly a personal story. irma historian of the british empire by training. by origin i am half indian. my father is from new york. i have a somewhat mixed background.
and some of first book looks at the british empire in india and egypt n. and so while working on that kind of realize wait. there are other things happening in the british empire that i don't know anything about double last line abound in u.s. history. i'm making these huge arguments about how the british royal this changing without paying any attention to the place that actually from. i came back and realize wait. if you come at it from that direction when you see it very differently. so i would say. history always looks different depending on where you stand and where you're seeing from. i don't think i would have seen it in this way effect, through the american history track. in terms of the middle east revolution some, would say that another lesson we can get from the story is that no revolution fails to leave problems and challenges that the regime that
comes up after it has to deal with. keno, we can celebrate the wonderful visions of democracy better being articulated but we also have to realize that that is not -- that is just the very beginning of a story that may end up taking quite unexpected forms. >> sorry. your parents are is teens dollars, and i am wondering if they said to you, you have to look get things differently. >> it was in my mother's milk. what can i said. >> yes. could you address the question of those loyalists who other remain behind in the nation or for whatever reason after a time in exile decided to return to the nation and how they feared and how they're treated her by your fellow americans.
>> sure. the question is tell loyalists appeared. now, the majority did stay. they were in various ways reintegrated into american society. i think there are a couple points i would like to stress here. the first one is at the moment of the british withdrawal in 1783 that the outcome was in no way clear. their work talks of violence, legal measures taken against former loyalists. and so for a time of the year to things were fairly uncertain. that said, there was not in the in the bloodbath. we did not have guillotines. we have no rain of terror. we didn't have kulaks. the story of the loyalists and america has often been woven into a very good story about the ability of our country to accommodate the sense. and so you see loyalists be reintegrated.
they tend to be reintegrated with the emergence of political parties in america so former loyalists are overwhelmingly federalists. there are a lot of ways in which in the early republic you can see the kinds of arguments that loyalists this house before the revolution taking on new forms and how they deal with the anglo-american relationship going forward. we have time for couple quick questions. >> i have a couple quick once. a recall reading an article. you found a gravestone in india. secondly, you mentioned willis compensation, but i am also aware that british would not permit claims to be made if the tory was forced to take an oath to support the patriot cause. i don't know if you have any thoughts on that. >> too great questions. the first one is about india.
one of the great pleasures for me was following the loyalists wherever they went because i wanted to see what the left behind.!o!k!k!k!k!e but it left behind in terms of documents, of course, which is a life blood of historical research. also the intangible things because only a privileged few. one of the most amazing things ilk saw was the grave mobile former loyalist who moved to india became an incredible military commander with a huge estate, married an indian woman had at half indian family and spent the rest of his life there. his eldest son predeceased him and so he built this wonderful monument which is illustrated in the book, reasons to take a look at the book which is still there, and it arises out of the mustard field in the middle of central north india justice amazing to estimate. the other question concerns the loyalists claims commission which is a remarkable condition
whereby the british government decides to give compensation using treasury funds to loyalists claman's. it sounds great it is great. of course there are bureaucratic and legal hurdles. and so there are various ways in which it is practically very difficult for loyalists to make claims. they have to prove their loyalty. they have to prove the value of the property that they lost and in this process if there are glitches in the case, oh, you did this at one time and said that at another it can make it more difficult for them to win compensation. one very last question. >> okay. actually, one is what became of elizabeth johnson's father whom we last saw reluctantly giving her an marriage. and the other one is about the ways the narrative of the loyalists has been used for fiction as far as i know only by
kenneth roberts and oliver was well read the narrative of the south side in the 1860's civil war has been pretty well -- in many ways at any rate hijacked by the south. i would like you to address the different ways that the two of them handled. >> sure. they go together. he goes to britain for a little while and it's a loyalists claim he files a loyal as planned. he then resells in nova scotia, the number one place for loyalists refugees and end up living the rest of his life there and is buried in nova scotia. the reason that this fits in with the second question which is a fascinating question about essentially memory of these conflicts. no my suggestion that the
loyalists of victims in the end is in a sense brought out by the fact we don't have this kind of lost cause literature. we don't have them raising secret to the restoration of the marquee in america and we don't have this kind of folklore songs of loss in the way that the french akkadians but down to louisiana. why not? well partly because they get free integrated into the british empire. there remain british subjects and n. they found a new home. it was in a geographical home but it was not necessarily a new identity as a political subject and cultural is speaking. and they were also reintegrated here into the u.s. somewhat, but i do think that we are missing something if we forget that this was a civil war. like you i am fascinated by the discrepancies between the incredible sense that we have about the need to rebuild after